SpaceX is preparing for a major test of its massive rocket designed for commercial launches, as well as the Mars mission
Near a beach east of Brownsville, Texas, employees at Mr. Musk’s space company prepare for the Starship’s inaugural orbital flight, High-altitude missile system The company has been developing for years into one day launching into deep space. SpaceX said in a regulatory filing that the initial test mission will take about 90 minutes, starting with the fiery explosion of the ship’s booster over the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s not clear when SpaceX will attempt the first flight, beyond the dates Mr. Musk discussed. Some officials with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, a customer for a version of the Starship, have previously said they believe the mission could happen as early as December.
Mr. Musk, who acquired Twitter Inc. It recently delivered its first Tesla All electric semi-trailersHe described getting the Starship into orbit as one of his main goals. At SpaceX, which Mr. Musk founded in 2002 and still leads, he said the rocket system consumes significant resources and faces formidable technical hurdles..
The company is using new engines it developed on the Starship and wants to be able to quickly and quickly recycle the vehicle, similar to how airlines operate planes. The spacecraft is big, too: Fully stacked, it’s taller than the rocket NASA used recently First Artemis moon mission.
Mr. Musk said last year, during an appearance before the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
A spokesperson for Space Exploration Technologies Corp, as it is officially called, did not respond to requests for comment.
SpaceX’s Starship program has faced setbacks with short-altitude flights, and it’s not clear how much it would cost if something similar happened on an orbital mission.
Former employees said the company’s strategy of accepting potential failures and learning from them helped develop spacecraft like the Falcon 9, the workhorse rocket the company used on nearly 60 launches this year through mid-December.
said Abhi Tripathi, who has served in several management positions at SpaceX and currently serves as Director of Mission Operations at the UC Berkeley Space Science Laboratory.
“Risk is encouraged, as long as it is safe for people and property,” said Mr. Tripathi at SpaceX.
Aerospace company Blue Origin LLC is also working on its own mega-rocket, as is United Launch Alliance, the launch company jointly owned by
Lockheed Martin corp.
If it succeeds, so will the SpaceX spacecraft Reduce the cost of getting into orbit And give the company a new, advanced missile system, Musk said earlier this year. If that doesn’t happen, the program could threaten to become a money pit for a company that already has two proven rockets — the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy — that can be partially reusable, according to space industry analysts and executives.
NASA is a major backer of the Starship, offering deals worth more than $4 billion to use the Copy of the lunar lander For Artemis exploration missions. Senior agency officials said the company was meeting milestones set out in its contract.
Technology entrepreneur Jared Isaacman Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa said they bought flights using the car. A Japanese satellite operator said in August that it would use Starship to deploy a satellite for the company.
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The spacecraft consists of a 230-foot booster called the Super Heavy that will power a 164-foot-tall spacecraft, also called a Starship, into orbit, according to SpaceX. The latter vessel is designed to carry cargo or crew, with a user manual merchandising room for up to 100 people. The spacecraft is designed to refuel in orbit, allowing for longer-distance trips, according to the company and NASA offerings.
SpaceX is spending heavily on the Starship program, according to space industry analysts. The privately held company has raised big money recently, selling at least $6.1 billion in stock over the past three years, according to securities filings. SpaceX recently started marketing employee stock for sale At a price estimated by the company at about $ 140 billion.
Musk warned that SpaceX could face bankruptcy if a severe global recession made it difficult to obtain capital and liquidity while the company was investing in Starship and Starlink, its satellite internet business.
Technical challenges with new missiles are common. In July, the company had to deal with a A fiery explosion under one of the Super Heavy boosters, although SpaceX said last month that it had completed a significant test of the engine. SpaceX has also lost prototypes of the spacecraft. two years ago, A spacecraft flew a short altitude test flight Without a booster, but it hit the ground when trying to land.
In May 2021, the company The spacecraft spacecraft landed for the first time After another short trip.
For the first orbital test, SpaceX expects to lower the booster in the Gulf of Mexico and land the Starship spacecraft in the Pacific Ocean, near the island of Hawaii, according to a document with the Federal Communications Commission.
Jeff Thornburg, former CEO of Propulsion at SpaceX, said the biggest challenge the company faces is ensuring that the Starship returns safely to Earth. He said the craft will endure enormous pressure and heat as it re-enters the atmosphere from orbit, but it is designed to be used quickly and frequently.
“Reusability brings a lot of complex engineering, because it can only survive once. It has to survive 10, 20, 100 times more.
Write to Micah Maidenberg at [email protected]
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